Written by MichaelJM on 19 Sep, 2010
We are collected from our hotel and taken to the airport in time for our onward journey to Ecuador. Thankfully the journey was trouble free and we were well received at the airport in Ecuador by the Audley representative who ensured our efficient transfer to…Read More
We are collected from our hotel and taken to the airport in time for our onward journey to Ecuador. Thankfully the journey was trouble free and we were well received at the airport in Ecuador by the Audley representative who ensured our efficient transfer to the hotel. After checking in we decide to have a quick orientation around the area (we’ll be exploring the sights in full detail tomorrow).Ecuador is described as a diminutive country that boasts a wonderful diversity of sights including active volcanoes. We passed one of these on route to the hotel and I’d swear that I smelt the tell tale sulphuric smell at its foot. Quito is the modern capital of Quito and was once the main political and ceremonial centre for the north of the Inca Empire. It’s in a fertile valley surrounded by picturesque mountains, and our guide suggested that the temperature was fairly steady all year round. Certainly it’s warmer than we anticipated although by the time we’re on our wander the majority of the blue skies have gone. As we’re only a short stroll to the central square we take a leisurely stroll to the Plaza Grande and although I snap a few of the fine buildings our main intention tonight is to "take in the vibes". We’ve been told that by 7.00 everything in the centre is closed down and our guide did recommend that we didn’t wander too far away from the hotel after 7.30. We’re not sure how much of that was scare mongering, but in all honesty there seemed little point in wandering the streets too long after dark.There are groups of musicians playing in the square and this sets the scene for the bustle of local living. After checking out the tourist information centre (from the outside this looks like a decent shop) we head away from the square, walking on our instincts, and becoming increasingly bewildered by the plethora of "specialist shops". One shop sold only buttons and other footballs, whilst others had what seemed like hundreds of shoes, others specialised in fabric. There were numerous shops selling clothes for confirmation ceremonies – a reminder that this was a strong Roman Catholic country. But none seemed as if their goods were high quality and they reminded us of small seaside shops of the 50’s in the UK, Indeed a shop specialising in men’s suits appeared that they were selling clothing that was issued to the armed forces on their discharge from the service. We called them de-mob suits and they too date back to the late 40’s and early 50’s. Perhaps that’s where Ecuador is at in terms of its progress.There were street vendors selling oranges, confectionary, balloons, tapestry, paintings to name but a few things. Many of these vendors came from out of town and I guess they were easy to spot as they were selling ethnic goods or locally grown food products. We notice, not that it’s difficult, that the town is built into the mountain and there are real steep slopes that we have to manoeuvre. We approach a beautiful square called San Francisco Square and although I know its named after the monastery that overlooks this place of worship, I much prefer the idea that it’s named after the US City. Indeed as I look up both in both directions from the square the streets are as steep as those in San Francisco. It’s a busy plaza, even as the day is coming to a close and it’s great to take in the atmosphere of the town.Quito is a reassuring place to walk around as firstly it is exceedingly safe and secondly its built on a grid (as decreed by the Spanish rulers at the point of the occupation and redevelopment) so once you’ve got your bearings it’s only a matter of negotiating the blocks. We did this remarkably and after around an hour we found ourselves back outside the hotel.For information there’s no problem with ATM’s in the town – there’s plenty of them – and although the old site is not awash with restaurants most of the hotels have good quality dining facilities and it’s only a short taxi ride (we were told) into the restaurant capital of Quito in the new town.As Quito is a UNESCO World Heritage Site there are plenty of tourist police around so if you need help they’re around to assist as well as ensure that visitors don’t abuse this beautiful city. Indeed I thought that they must think that their raison d’etre is the latter as there was much blowing of whistles and pointing and waving. It turned out that this was mainly directed at locals who were bothering or in the opinion of the police likely to bother the visitors.A great place to visit and real easy to get around. Close
Written by Philly_Girl on 26 Oct, 2005
I am ashamed to admit that I had very low expectations for Quito prior to our arrival. But as we walked off the plane into the sparkling and modern airport, I immediately began revising my mental picture. What a surprising city! Despite being at such…Read More
I am ashamed to admit that I had very low expectations for Quito prior to our arrival. But as we walked off the plane into the sparkling and modern airport, I immediately began revising my mental picture. What a surprising city! Despite being at such a high elevation of 9,200 feet (or perhaps because of that), there are very few skyscrapers in the city. Our hotel with 9 floors seemed to be among the highest of the parts of the city we saw. Quito is nestled in a valley between a volcano (Pichincha) on the west and a steep canyon down to the river Machangara to the east, Quito is a long and narrow city surrounded by the Andes, many of which are active volcanoes. In fact sometimes, the airport is closed because of eruptions. In addition, because the city cannot grow up the sides of the mountains or down the canyon, it has grown out in length around the airport. It makes for quite an interesting landing as you descend over houses lower and lower and lower, and then, boom, you’re on the ground. Due to these challenges, the city is currently in the process of building a new airport 40 miles outside of town.
But back to Quito itself. Certainly, this is not a city like Paris or New York; it’s a quieter city, without the hustle and bustle of a Western city. With nearly 2 million people, however, it’s not a small town either. As you drive through the congested streets (roads mostly run north and south), you will see armed guards standing outside of some stores. You will also see pigs hanging in meat shops, as the owners cure them to prepare a special dish. However, this is a major city, and has an extensive shopping area, hotels, and public transportation system. Only 20% of the residents have cars, so the buses can get crowded.
In terms of personal safety, our guides suggested not to walk alone at night and if we went to Old Town to watch our belongings carefully. I never felt personally at risk at any time. In fact, I am more on guard when I’m in NYC. But it is always a good idea to be alert when you’re traveling. In terms of weather, despite being at the equator, it was quite cool during our trip in late September, early October. We wore sunscreen of course, but also had on long pants and jackets. It was probably in the mid-60s during the day, down to the 50s at night. Many of the native Ecuadorians were bundled up in sweaters, hats, and jackets. The nights were foggy; at least, that’s what we thought until we realized that fog was probably just clouds!
We loved our hotel, the Hotel Mecure Alameda. It was really elegant inside (see journal entry) and we felt very safe. We had three balconies in our rooms, and we opened up the doors to bring in the cool mountain air at night. We could lean out the balcony and see people going into bars and listen to the music and the singing into the wee hours of the morning. If I hadn’t been so tired and feeling slightly sick from the altitude, I would have gone down to join them. They sounded like they were having a great time. I was surprised to hear dogs barking ferociously at night. Later we learned that building managers place dogs on the roofs of buildings to prevent robberies, though we never fully understood the logic behind that.
One other note on the altitude: try to avoid greasy foods, and be sure to drink tons of bottled water. This will help. We took Diamox (prescription), and it wasn’t particularly effective for either of us. But I wouldn’t go to that altitude without it, just in case. Also, it evidently helps to eat sweet things, so if you feel a headache, eat something sweet, drink a lot of water, and hopefully it will go away after a few days.
You can buy weavings and traditional crafts in Quito, though they are more expensive than in the surrounding villages. (And you’d miss the fun of going to Otavalo.) You can find pretty much all you need in Quito, though, so if you forget your shampoo, you can buy something (though it may not be the exact brand.)
We were sorry to miss Old Town due to time constraints, which was established as a World Heritage site in 1978. It is definitely on our list for the next trip to Quito and Ecuador, as is Cuenca to the South. We plan to return to this beautiful country, just as soon as we can.
Written by African Explorer on 23 Aug, 2000
Cotopoxi 19,346 feet tall, the tallest active volcano in the world. Legend states that it erupts every one hundred years. The last time she erupted was 1890. About the 18,000 foot mark there is one of the most beautiful ice glaciers in the world, and…Read More
Cotopoxi 19,346 feet tall, the tallest active volcano in the world. Legend states that it erupts every one hundred years. The last time she erupted was 1890. About the 18,000 foot mark there is one of the most beautiful ice glaciers in the world, and that was my goal for that day. There was a Nazarene work-and-witness group of college students visiting the Ecuadorian mission at the same time, and they wanted to join James and I for the climb. Another missionary named Todd joined us as well. James and Todd have climbed this and other mountains in the area many times. There was a total of seven of us so we opted to take the old Chevy Suburban on the trip. Candy packed James and I a great lunch of sandwiches, and we threw them in the back of the suburban. After the two and half-hour drive we made it to the base of the mountain. Due to the mild slope of Cotopoxi we were able to drive up to around 15,000 feet. When we unloaded the truck I noticed how short my breath was and felt a little dizzy for a moment. This was my first experience at high altitude and I had no idea what I was in for, so I began to load up my camcorder and camera gear etc. James proceeded to give some valid advice and recommended me reconsider my load and bring only my small camera. Later that day I was very thankful for that advice. The mountain was very deceiving to me because the slope up to the orange roofed refuge seemed very mild, but I was mistaken. The soil was thick black sand of lava rock and every step up the hill, you slipped back two while filling your boots with painful rocks. Instantly one of the girls of our group requested to stay back at the truck and wait for our return this evening. I found it extremely hard to breathe and had to stop every ten to fifteen feet and rest to catch my breath. Every ten minutes I would look back and see the parked vehicles down below and snap a picture and then the clouds would roll in and the temperature would drop considerably blocking my view down the mountain. James was not having any problem with the altitude other than waiting for me to catch my breath. But patiently he would tell me that it would be ten times worth it once I was able to gaze upon the massive glacier. I was drained of all energy and freezing because we were totally enclosed in wet, cold clouds. I tried to concentrate on every step slowly climbing to the refuge building that seemed to be getting slightly closer. I gazed at my watch and was shocked - three hours since we left the truck, I was embarrassed to think that while I was at the truck and could see the orange refuge atop of the hill I thought it would b a minor fifteen minute hike. I always carried my journal and would add to it every chance I had, so I would never forget the experience and the true feelings at the time. Here is what I wrote while I was resting for a short break. 'It is VERY cold and I am definitely not used to the climate and elevation so the going is hard! I am not exaggerating in the least when I say that this is the most physically demanding thing I have ever done in my life! I can see the refuge probably a hundred yards straight up from here where I am sitting but it will probably take me at least an hour to get there. This is frustrating due to every two steps, I slide back one and every five, I stop to catch my breath. I would consider turning back but I would never forgive myself for not giving it my all to experience this beauty.' I know there are probably mountain climbers saying that I am making a bigger deal of this than I should and actually as I look back and read my journal I can hardly believe that it was so difficult. I must remind myself that this was my first time in an altitude higher than 7500 feet and I didn't have any clothes for the cold because this was a jungle trek not alpine. And, frankly, I underestimated mountain climbing. It taught me a great respect for the high peaks of the world. Since then I have climbed again. At last I reached the enclosed comfort of the refuge. This building is used in case of people being stranded on Cotopoxi, the bright orange roof being able to be seen in most weather from that side of the mountain. After a short rest James said we will actually begin walking across the mountain instead of a dead climb and we proceeded through the snow only having to climb another five hundred feet. As we proceed closer to the glacier I can't believe my eyes and ears! The beauty of this ice wall extending many hundreds of feet high is breathtaking and the loud explosion sounds of the ice cracking and breaking rattles the nerves. James and I get our picture taken against the massive glacier and then proceed in climbing it a ways. There are icicles hanging, some fifty feet long, and ice caves everywhere. Walking through these massive hanging icicles and caves gives me a feeling of being in another world, and I thank the Lord for allowing me to experience such a wonderful creation. As we walked along the glacier the ground is a slick ice cracking and moving at all times, and if you come to a complete stop it still gives the feeling of moving. After a couple hours of exploring, it began to cloud up and sleet. Due to my striving altitude headache we decided to head back down. Grabbing some lava rock for a souvenir we started across the mountain. I think the best way to describe this experience is comparing it to the first time seeing the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Close
Written by Eleven Shadows on 01 Jun, 2007
After staying at the Black Sheep Inn in Chugchilan, I rode in a truck with two llamas along a winding road overlooking gaping chasms, gorgeous farmland, and rivers to the remote town of Isinlivi, which is at a slightly lower elevation, and therefore a bit…Read More
After staying at the Black Sheep Inn in Chugchilan, I rode in a truck with two llamas along a winding road overlooking gaping chasms, gorgeous farmland, and rivers to the remote town of Isinlivi, which is at a slightly lower elevation, and therefore a bit warmer and less wind-swept than the Black Sheep Inn at Chugchilan, but no less beautiful. This was one of my favorite places on this trip. There's not much to do there, but that's sort of the point, isn't it? One wouldn't come here to go nightclubbing. But there's so much to soak in: treks, relaxing, reading books, enjoying the quiet countryside, going to the Don Bosco Woodworking Shop, feeding the llamas, visiting remote Andean churches, hiking along streams, visiting the Andean farmers; does this sound fantastic to you? This is about as great as retreats get, and the perfect antidote to my busy life.Like Black Sheep Inn, Llullu Llama (http://www.llullullama.com/) is also an eco-lodge. Hostal Llullu Llama was once a traditional farmhouse and is now converted in a romantic Hostal Llullu Llama mountain hostel high up in the Andes of Ecuador. Close
Written by Robert Raymond Ingledew on 17 Nov, 2006
Santo Domingo de los Colorados is a strategic point for travelling all Ecuador. The road from Quito to Santo Domingo goes through tropical forests, and crosses rivers with beautiful waterfalls. There are highways and bus services from Santo Domingo in all directions: to the coast…Read More
Santo Domingo de los Colorados is a strategic point for travelling all Ecuador. The road from Quito to Santo Domingo goes through tropical forests, and crosses rivers with beautiful waterfalls. There are highways and bus services from Santo Domingo in all directions: to the coast (Manta and Portoviejo), to the north (Ibarra, Tulcán), to the capital (Quito), to the south (Ambato, Loja, Machala). The name of the population came from the Tsáchilas Indians that lived originally in this area, that had the custom of painting their hair red with vegetable extracts. It is an agricultural area, mostly dedicated to banana plantations, sugar cane and palm. It is also a beautiful town. It has a tropical climate, and some very nice hotels. I stayed at the Hotel Casino Zaracay, that has a beautiful park, with a small bird zoo and casino. It is a 4-star hotel and a nice place to stay.
The road from Quito to Santo Domingo is charming. You go through the Andes and down to a more tropical area. There are beautiful waterfalls in the mountainside, and it is a short trip (about and hour and a half). The road from Santo Domingo towards Portoviejo (an old colonial city) and Manta is full of banana plantations, although the main banana producing area is Machala, further south. The countryside is full of plantations on the mountainside. Although Manta has nothing special to offer regarding beaches, you will certainly enjoy the trip. You will enjoy your stay at Santo Domingo, and from there you can go to the coast (Manta, Esmeraldas, Guayaquil, and probably Salinas), to the border with Colombia (Tulcán, just in front of Ipiales), or to Cuenca and further down the border with Peru.
You can use Santo Domingo as your strategic base for visiting the whole country without changing hotels every day. The trip to the north will probably take some 4 hours, and there are very nice places far nearer (for example to buy leather articles in Otavallo). I really enjoyed my stay at Santo Domingo de los Colorados. It is a small town, but a very active strategic point in Ecuador. You can buy handcrafts on the street (mainly colorful Ecuadorian clothes) Give Ecuador a try; you will not regret it.
During nine years I visited this country periodically as supervisor of a USA-based non-profit association. Although occasionally I stayed at the home of some friend, more than ninety percent of the times I stayed at different hotels.
These are my recommendations based on that experience:…Read More
During nine years I visited this country periodically as supervisor of a USA-based non-profit association. Although occasionally I stayed at the home of some friend, more than ninety percent of the times I stayed at different hotels.
These are my recommendations based on that experience: GUAYAQUIL: Here I stayed at the home of some friends. The best hotels in this city are Hilton, Best Western, Oro Verde, and Ramada.
QUITO: I stayed at two different hotels in this city: Hotel Quito and Hotel República. The Hotel Quito was an Intercontinental hotel at that time, then became a Best Western. The hotel is large (215 rooms), but is very quiet. It is located in a beautiful panoramic viewpoint. Although it is in the downtown, the view from your room overlooks a beautiful valley, behind which you only see mountains. But you cross the lobby and you are already in the city. It has a very nice swimming pool, and sauna. The restaurant on the last floor has a fantastic panoramic view of the city. It is open in the evening; at noon you have lunch at the cafeteria, by the side of the swimming pool. Address: Gonzalez Suarez 2500, phones (593) (2) 254 4600, (593) (2) 256 6674. A standard room costs approximately 100 dollars per night. The other hotel I stayed at in Quito was the Hotel República (4 stars, that I would rate as a 3-star hotel.) It is well located, is comfortable, located at Av. Republica and Azuay, phones (593) (2) 243 6553 and (593) (2) 251 2711. A standard room costs approximately 36 dollars per night. It has no swimming pool. It offers special rates on week-ends. In Quito you will find 3 star hotels at some 20 to 25 dollars per night, but I would recommend any of these two, with which I was completely satisfied.
AMBATO: I stayed at the Gran Hotel Ambato (4 stars) with a nice panoramic view, and not too expensive. RIOBAMBA: I stayed at the Hotel El Cisne, a budget hotel with reasonable comfort. LOJA: I remember having stayed at a very cheap hotel here, but do not remember the name. At that time a room with private bathroom was costing five dollars per night. These are two of the main hotels here (Loja is a relatively small city): Aguilera Internacional, phone (593-6) 257.2892; Grand Hotel Loja, phone (593-6) 257.5200.
CUENCA: I stayed at 3 different hotels in this city: Oro Verde (5 stars), Ciudad de Cuenca (4 stars), and Catedral (1 star). The Oro Verde hotel (previously known as La Laguna) is in a fantastic setting some 2 miles away from the downtown. It is on the Tomebamba river, at a place where the river forms a very nice lagoon. They had rainbow trout coming up and down the small ditch in the front. It is quite possible that the lagoon is stocked with trout. One of the pavilions of the hotel is constructed over the lagoon, while the main building faces it. Av Ordoñez Lasso s/n, phone (593 7) 2831200 - fax: (593 7) 2832849. The Ciudad de Cuenca hotel offers good comfort at substantially lower rates, Borrero 10 69 , phone (593 7): 833711. The hotel Catedral (the cheapest one where I stayed) was OK, although the wooden floor was rather squeaky. Its address and phone is Padre Aguirre 817, phone 282 3204. It is rated as a 2-star hotel, but I would give it one. I was also at a national convention of the association at the Hotel Crespo. The rooms did not impress me too much, but it is in a very nice location, facing the Tomebamba river.
MACHALA: Here I stayed at two hotels: Rizzo (3 stars) and what today is the Oro Verde hotel. The Rizzo Hotel is acceptable and obviously costs less than the Oro Verde. This last hotel has a swimming pool. SANTO DOMINGO DE LOS COLORADOS: I stayed at the Hotel Casino Zacaray. Beautiful setting, beautiful park. 4-stars. Phone (593-2) 2258359.
MANTA: Oro Verde and Howard Johnson are the best hotels here. I stayed at a budget hotel (El Inca) and cannot find it in the hotel directories. Room was OK, near the beach, very cheap. ESMERALDAS: This is not a tourist area, and there are very few hotels. PORTOVIEJO: One hotel I could recommend here as acceptable is the hotel Ejecutivo. Nothing special, but comfortable. Phone 2632105. IBARRA: I stayed at the hotel Ajaví, quite comfortable, phone 295-5555. OTAVALLO: I did not stay in this city, and therefore prefer to not recommend any hotels. There are 13 hotels in the city. TULCAN: It is on the border with Colombia, facing Ipiales. There are better hotels in Ipiales. Hope you will find this information useful.
Written by Robert Raymond Ingledew on 10 Nov, 2006
This is a beautiful trip, all along the Andes, and viewing some of the highest mountains of the country, as the Cotopaxi, Cayambe and Chimborazo,the highest mountain in Ecuador (21,000 feet high, or 6310m). The whole trip takes some 8 hours (280 miles)and there…Read More
This is a beautiful trip, all along the Andes, and viewing some of the highest mountains of the country, as the Cotopaxi, Cayambe and Chimborazo,the highest mountain in Ecuador (21,000 feet high, or 6310m). The whole trip takes some 8 hours (280 miles)and there are mountains and foothills all the way.
We will pass in front of the Cotopaxi volcano, will go through Ambato, a city that was destroyed by an earthquake in 1949, killing six thousand people. Today there is no evidence of this natural disaster, and the city has recovered completely from this event. From Ambato southwards, passing in front of the Chimborazo volcano, the highest in Ecuador, through Riobmba and Loja, we will see native Indians dressed with their colorful clothes, and will really enjoy the countryside, at some times bordering beautiful rivers.
I should say at this point that the city of Cuenca is older even than Quito and has a larger number of historical buildings, so if you do not go to Cuenca you do not have the complete picture...
This trip would not be complete if we do not continue all the way down to Machala (another 120 miles), through Piñas, to see what is probably the largest banana producing area in the whole world.
If you wish to make stops along this road, I would recommend the hotel Ambato in Ambato, a nice 3 star hotel with a good panoramic view, the Chimborazo Internacional at Ríobamba (also 3 stars), although I stayed at a cheaper hotel, El Cisne, that was comfortable, and at Cuenca I have stayed at 3 different hotels (Catedral, a one-star budget hotel, Ciudad de Cuenca (4 stars, very nice, but in the downtown) and La Laguna (5 stars, facing a beautiful Lagoon, this hotel belongs to Oro Verde Hotels, a leading hotel company in Ecuador). I have written a separate report on this hotel.
You should definitely visit the Cajas National Park, where there are literally dozens of lagoons in the mountainside, and where you can practice rainbow trout fishing with good results.
Finally, in Machala you have a budget hotel (Rizzo), although the best option is the Oro Verde hotel (that used to be a two-star hotel, was remodeled for the Football World Cup, now belongs to Oro Verde hotels, and has been rated as a five star hotel…Now it has a swimming pool, very important in a warm area like Machala…
If you travel driving a car, and it has rained heavily, pay special attention to the highway, because sometimes between Cuenca and Machala a landslide can literally cut the road and it could take a good while until the Highways Department clears the road again.
On the way to Manta you go through Portoviejo, that is one of the oldest cities in Ecuador. I have stayed at the hotel Portoviejo (phone 2632105)
but the hotel Ejecutivo (phone 2632105)seems to be better.
In Manta there are many hotels, including an Oro Verde and a Howard Johnson. If you want a budget hotel in Manta, try the hotel Inca; I have stayed there, and it had acceptable comfort. I
I was not very impressed with the Ecuadorian beaches, (however, I must say that I have never gone to Salinas, that is supposed to be the best Ecuadorian beach).
I hope I have not bored you with so many details, I only wish to be useful.
The web page called www.enjoyecuador.net has far more information on this beautiful country.
If you asked me which are in my opinion the six nicest cities of Latin America, I would say: Merida (Venezuela), Quito (Ecuador), Manizales (Colombia), Río (Brazil), Valdivia (Chile) and Punta del Este (Uruguay). And I have visited every single country in Latin America…Read More
If you asked me which are in my opinion the six nicest cities of Latin America, I would say: Merida (Venezuela), Quito (Ecuador), Manizales (Colombia), Río (Brazil), Valdivia (Chile) and Punta del Este (Uruguay). And I have visited every single country in Latin America during nine years on business.
Quito is one of the oldest cities in Ecuador, founded nearly five centuries ago, and is divided in two very specific areas: the new city, that is modern, with skyscrapers and wide avenues, and the old city, completely colonial, with many charming historical buildings. Both areas are separated by a tunnel, and walking through the whole city means going up and down hills… Obviously I did not discover all the places that the city has to offer, because I have found in the www.iexplore.com gallery some charming places I had never heard about.
I prefer staying in the hotel Quito because although Quito is a large city with over one million inhabitants, at the hotel Quito (first an Intercontinental hotel, then a Best Western, I do not know who operates it just now) you seem to be in the middle of nowhere, looking towards a green valley, behind which you see the mountainside, and far away from everything. But you just cross the lobby, and you are in the downtown… As I mentioned in the overview, the restaurant is on the top floor and has an incredible view of the city in all directions.
Climate is wonderful in Quito, you can sunbathe the whole year round, although weather is not very warm. Average highs are in the high sixties, and average lows in the low fifties, just an eternal spring…
I have also stayed at the hotel Presidente, a nice 3-star hotel that offers half-rate over the weekend (keep this in mind).
The Tambo Real hotel used to very inexpensive, but now it is a Best Western and has been rated as a 5-star hotel.
Of course, Sheraton, Howard Johnson, Radisson and Best Western also have their hotels in this beautiful city.
It is a city to enjoy thoroughly, and if you are fond of history and museums, you should not miss it.
PLACES TO VISIT FROM QUITO
SANTO DOMINGO DE LOS COLORADOS (one hour and a half by bus): you will go bordering mountains covered with tropical vegetation and enjoying some beautiful waterfalls.
AMBATO, RÍOBAMBA AND LOJA: Three nice mountainside cities, although not the most beautiful.
CUENCA: By far, the most beautiful city in southern Ecuador and the second city of the country. It is a university city, has many historical buildings, and the scenic view of the Tomebamba river, with Indian washwomen washing their clothes in the river and drying them on the grass, and a panoramic view of old colonial buildings literally "hanging over" the cliffs that border the city, really justify a visit.
MACHALA: The most important banana producing area in Ecuador that produces some of the best bananas of the world.
LAGOS DE MORENO, OTAVALLO AND TULCAN: On the way up towards the border with Colombia, the landscape becomes arid in parts. There is a lovely water slide before you come to Tulcan, and some areas as populated by African extraction farmers. Otavallo is THE place for buying leather articles in Ecuador. There is a large variety of shops and articles.
Quito -and Ecuador- have a lot of charming places and unforgettable experiences to offer you. Start packing your bags...
Written by saraherose on 05 Apr, 2001
i wasn't exactly prepared for what it would look or feel like to wander around a place where people not only do not enjoy the luxuries we are afforded living in the united states but where, for the most part, people struggle to get their…Read More
i wasn't exactly prepared for what it would look or feel like to wander around a place where people not only do not enjoy the luxuries we are afforded living in the united states but where, for the most part, people struggle to get their basic needs met. i was frequently approached by people selling all sorts of things like individual pieces of hard candy to small toiletry items--anything that could be sold or traded for something of value. i was also struck by how many people spent most of their time on the streets, nursing children, asking for money, selling their wares.
what i was most struck by, though, was that, in light of all this dearth, there was an overwhelming sense of community. children were almost always accompanied by their mothers or traveled in bands with friends. hordes of people waiting to take the bus from downtown to some other place socialized with one another, played cards, ate meals together.
it occurred to me then, and i revisit this thought often, that with all of the luxuries we enjoy in our society, their upkeep takes so much of our energy that we may tend to lose sight of our human connections. this i have learned from the ecuadorans, and i cherish this lesson.
Written by sparklefish on 15 Nov, 2004
The first thing I want to shout from the mountaintops is, "BRING SMALL BILLS!!!" You will find it very difficult to break a $20 bill anywhere but a supermarket or bank, and even then they won't be happy about it. My strong recommendation…Read More
The first thing I want to shout from the mountaintops is, "BRING SMALL BILLS!!!" You will find it very difficult to break a $20 bill anywhere but a supermarket or bank, and even then they won't be happy about it. My strong recommendation is to bring a whole pack of $1's and as many $5's as possible. This is especially true in the craft markets, where I've stood sheepishly by, watching a vendor breathlessly scurry from booth to booth looking for someone able to break my five.
As far as obtaining cash, AmEx traveller's checks can be cashed at Banco de Guayaquil (in Quito on Ave. Colon and Reina Victoria) for a 1.5% commission (you have to go to the third floor to do this). I was also able to cash one at a hardware store in Banos (where there were NO Visa/Plus ATM's), but I haven't tried elsewhere.
I'd recommend ATM's for getting cash, especially if your currency isn't the dollar, but I have had problems with this. First, Banco de Guayaquil (Quito has several) is the ONLY bank that honors Plus/VISA ATM cards, despite the fact that other banks (like Pichincha) display the VISA symbol. You might have a better time with Mastercard/Cirrus, which seems much more popular here. If you're travelling to outlying areas, don't count on easy access to Banco de Guayaquil ATM's.
Second, twice in my five months here, the system was down and my transaction didn't go through, BUT the request was still sent to the U.S. system when the machines came back online, resulting in false debits from my account. The first time this happened, in December, it wasn't fully resolved till April (though my banks provisionally credited my accounts once they received my original, signed investigation request). The second time, however, the error was corrected within 2 weeks.
Credit cards are usable, but they are NOT widely accepted and will often result in a surcharge (or the store may offer you a 10% discount or more for cash payment).
Ecuador, since "dollarization" took effect a few years ago, has gone from being about the cheapest South American country to the most expensive. Tourists will still find costs very accessible, with hostels in Quito starting at $6 a night and a set-menu lunch to be had just about anywhere for $1 to $1.50. Many imported products (shampoo and electronics) are more expensive than in the U.S., and many items, like clothes, are almost as much. Any services will be a lot cheaper (haircuts are $1 to $5, a doctor visit at Voz Andes Hospital is $8, and a guided day tour to Mindo or Otavalo is $80 for two), as will generic prescription drugs (Cipro is $6/week), and alcohol (Stoli or Skyy vodka is $7, local spirits are $2, and a liter of pilsner beer is $1 to $2 at restaurants). Trendy bars/clubs will charge a $3 to $5 cover, usually including a drink. Nice-ish restaurants may run about $5 an entree.
All food/drink prices are generally inflated in the Mariscal district and just venturing a few blocks out will take you to the "real world," with low-budget mom-and-pop restaurants.
Student discounts won't apply unless you're actually staying long enough to get your censo. Generally, only Ecuadorians are eligible for the discount.